All Is True (2019)
All Is True should be subtitled, The Shakespeares On Reality TV. It rivals the Kardashians.
It's based on gossip, rumors, conflict, and a watery stew of speculation. Welcome to 2019.
All Is True centers around - it doesn't center on - William Shakespeare's retirement to Stratford, after the Globe Theatre in London was destroyed by a devastating fire.
Little is known about Shakespeare's later years, but critics and wannabes have filled volumes with suspect surmises.
Director/producer Kenneth Branagh throw them helter-skelter against the Stratford walls, and lets the viewer - with his assistance - decide what sticks or slides down the wall. There's a lot of sliding.
In All Is True, all is true. And therefore nothing is true. It's all up for sloppy grabs.
In All Is True, Willie is somewhat dullish. He's a gardening fool, who can't garden. One of his daughters is a clandestine poet, not to his knowledge. His late son is a ghost. He is obsessed about the negative image of his own father. He also is obsessed about his own image in the small town.
He's only Shakespeare.
He may be gay. He may be hallucinatory. What is too much? Maybe Shakespeare was a serial killer. Put that in your movie, and the crowds will come.
Writer Ben Elton writes whatever comes to mind, no matter how flimsy. He is the Sarah Huckabee Sanders of screenwriters.
Many viewers probably will assume All Is True is the actual life of Shakespeare, not an invented life. Elton is a literary politician - a true oxymoron.
The cast of All Is True is gifted, despite the contrived material they are faced with. I don't care whether Branagh, who plays Shakespeare, is 20 years younger than Judi Dench, who plays his wife Anne Hathaway, when in actuality his wife was only eight years older than Shakespeare. Branagh and especially Dench are good enough actors to create a credible chemistry.
Branagh also is fortunate to have veteran Shakespearean actor Ian McKellan to portray Shakespeare's patron, the earl of Southampton. The earl and Shakespeare have one scene together when they speak poetry to one another. It's a memorable, flashy scene together, although it never happened.
Branagh's direction is piecemeal.
At a time when venerable institutions are crumbling, Branagh contributes to the dumbing down of Shakespeare. I'll give you a Bard for a Barr.
One might hope that Branagh - a veteran Shakespeare devotee - would protect the incredible rarity of a great writer.
With the hodgepodge of different assumptions, Branagh could be being ironic. He isn't.
His heart might be in All Is True. But his mind isn't.